May 27, 2021

Beyond FMV: the remarkable story of Erica

There's a stigma attached to full-motion video games. They're known for hammy acting and titillation: an image they haven't been able to shake since the 90s, thanks to infamous games like Night Trap. A few companies still make them but they tend to be made on a budget, so they fly just under the radar, not quite meeting a threshold to get excited about.

But Erica was different. It had a classiness to it, and a refinement. It was beautifully shot, the acting was believable, and it was tense. And it felt different. In Erica, you could interact with the world in a more engaging way than with other FMV games. Those games tend to keep you standing back from the action, feeling as though you're only ever choosing a film clip to watch next. But Erica pulled you in. It let you touch the world, pulling ribbons to open presents, pushing pencils across paper to draw, pressing keys to play a piano. Little things, but many things, always reinforcing that you were in this world and it was responding to you.

And Erica was glossy. It had the sheen of PlayStation exclusivity and all the buzz that came with it, though it has since been released on tablets and phones, and this week on Steam. In other words, Erica seemed like a high profile revival of FMV. But as I was surprised to find out this week, it was never about that. The makers of the game don't even like FMV. Erica wasn't about bringing it back, it was about creating something new.

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